IRKUTSK, September 18 (Itar-Tass) - The administration of Siberian Russia's Irkutsk region will launch a program to retrain workers dismissed in the closure of Lake Baikal's cellulose manufacturing plant, regional Minister of Labor Elena Yegorova said on Wednesday.
Employees have already lost jobs there and another 500 will follow an official announcement on Wednesday night. The plant has been sole employer for the 15,000-strong local population.
"We believe that around 800 people might be trained for new jobs at the expense of budgetary funds worth 36 million rubles allocated to the program," Yegorova said. She said workers dismissed from the plant were entitled to unemployment benefit until they were given new jobs.
Investors decided on closure at the end of July, operations scheduled to cease when timber processing was finished and stocks of chemical agents were exhausted. Cellulose production ended on September 8.
Around 600 workplaces are planned for the area by developing a "Gates to Baikal" tourist zone, water bottling activity and an industrial park.
Baikal's cellulose plant was commissioned in 1966, provoking ecologists' protests at damage to the lake's unique environment.